Fond Memories and a Hopeful Future
Our Kickstarter Campaign is launching next week! This is our first blog in our Kickstarter series. Writing can be a vessel of profound thinking, and so over the coming weeks we will be diving deep into who AMMA is; why it exists; and who it exists for.
We can only feel humble and grateful for having got to where we are. This first blog will illustrate our journey thus far, and our hopes of diving into redemptive business as we move forward.
The story of AMMA begins with our founder, Josie, leaving the sandy shores of Wales with 24 years of life lessons learnt, to embark on a journey to influence the tide of the textile industry. From a little workshop nestled in the hilly tea estates of Sri Lanka’s highlands a dream to preserve the beauty and integrity of the Earth and its people commenced. With a textile degree and a hopeful heart for change AMMA’s story begins…
AMMA’s first connection to Sri Lanka began in 2010 where Josie volunteered for Child Action Lanka, a local NGO based in Kandy. Who would have guessed that six years later Josie would be experimenting with purposeful fashion and employing two wonderful women to help her along the way in Child Action Lanka’s very own preschool? Priya and Chandraleka are still with us today creating beautiful restorative products. Our weekly stall at The Good Market in Colombo became a place for us to experiment with new ideas, collaborating with local businesses like Café Kumbuk to use their waste avocado stones to create our dusky pink colour.
Our wonder team of 3 meandered just down the road into a garage which we converted into our second cheerful, yet rather small, workshop. We built a bathroom and fitted a front door and a window. AMMA had been operating a year and we soon began to grow and take on more orders. We made pomegranate dyed pouches and tote bags for DamDam’s skin care launch (which is when we discovered how intricately our ecosystem is connected; the colours of the bags turned from green to yellow thanks to the local farmers… oh the unpredictability of dyeing with food waste!). The increase of orders from brands such as Api Hapi, Wonder Workshop and Three By One meant we could employ 3 new mother makers: Lenat, Kogila and our workshop manager, Meena. In our balmy and jubilant workshop, we experimented with our own product range making zero waste blankets and quilts. TeaLeaf Vision became faithful friends, and we secured our first lot of funding from TRAID!
With funding from TRAID and expertise from TeaLeaf Vision, we moved into our bright and spacious workshop number three. Finally, a workshop with more than one room! With a dye room big enough to scale our processes and white walls to hang our samples on we felt like the creative business we had dreamed to be. We welcomed Rosie, Rumana and Sheromi to the family. Samble Setting let us loose creating the textile interiors for their beautiful coastal villa and we started to stock products in Urban Island and Barefoot in Colombo. Talented creatives brought their skills in abundance helping with photography, branding and illustration. The golden highlight to conclude workshop three was meeting our new master weaver Mary… let the weaving commence.
From deep in the Kandyan jungle we purchased our first five handlooms! In an age which is switching to machine weaving we wholeheartedly believe in sustaining hand weaving in AMMA’s production process. Our team grew and then shrunk back as we figured out how to work together and we are now a solid team of 10. A flutter of energy enveloped our workshop in January 2020 as ore talented creatives turned up to help us with product development and storytelling. We gained two directors (one of which is Meena’s daughter!), and we hired our office administrator Johanna. Josie left for New Zealand and so our team became global, navigating the beauty of time difference and shipping… so far so good!
Into the Future
Heading into the future we want to scale AMMA and see more mothers on Sri Lanka’s tea estates come out of lives of struggle and into opportunity through redemptive business. We want to encourage mothers to try and give them room to fail. Johanna, our Office Administrator said, “My wishes for AMMA is that it grows, lives and is a successful business even after we grow old! I will be a role model until that happens.”
Since being accepted onto the Joy Corps Fellowship, we are learning to operate AMMA through a redemptive lens. This is a positive move into equipping our local team to become leaders and problem solvers in the business aspects of AMMA. Because of Joy Corps we are now connected to many other handicraft businesses in Asia! In addition, we are striving to streamline our processes and actions so that one day AMMA can be a working model in other areas.
The Edmund Hillary Fellowship has connected us with entrepreneurial investors who are keen to assist AMMA grow - surrounding us with a network and community that pursues transformational business.
On another note, we aim to switch to organic cotton which will enable us to create timeless pieces with more transparency in our supply chain. We dream of growing our own dye plants outside the workshop as well as working to start a micro farming initiative which will provide income for more families locally.
Additionally, we want to influence the lives of mothers, supporting and empowering them through life skill sessions and community.
AMMA’s philosophy is to merge the old with the new to make intricate and beautiful sustainable products which redeem tea estate communities and transform women’s lives.
Support us in our vision by purchasing one of our limited edition handcrafted pieces through our Kickstarter Campaign launching this week! Continue to follow our journey via social media and sign up to our newsletter where you will get all our latest campaign updates.
Written by Izzy Bevir